Should be Automatic:
Tiger Woods
Jim Furyk
Steve Stricker
Phil Mickelson

Quite frankly these players achievements over a long period of time is apart from the rest of the United States team. You should pencil them in to every American team for at least a few years.

Yes, that means Tiger Woods, too. Despite the non-sense Jason Sobel sent me in about 50 DM’s Tiger Woods has been a top-ten player in the world this year. Period. Average score is a far better predictor of future results then something stupid like winning percentage over a few events.

After these guys, I think let’s break down the contenders one at a time:
Hunter Mahan:
Despite a win, Mahan has had a down 2010. Still at this point in his career, you can definitely expect Mahan to improve. 2009 may have been an outlier in terms of good play, but I think my rating is pretty fair for him right now.
VERDICT: On the team.

Matt Kuchar:
I want to say I respect Matt Kuchar’s incredibly strong 2010 season, but I am more than a little concerned that he could be the 2010 version of the J.J. Henry, Vaughn Taylor or Brett Wetterich. Kuchar had an incredibly spotty record from the first part of the decade, somewhat turned it around in 2006, then really has been on fire the past two years. His past two years have only trailed the Big 4, and Anthony Kim as far as Americans go.
VERDICT: Wait and See.

Anthony Kim
If Anthony Kim is healthy, he probably has the strongest record of any American outside the big 4. 2007 and 2009 can be considered down years for him, but they are still pretty strong and 2008 and 2010(when healthy) Kim put together some very impressive results. Like many 20-somethings, Kim hasn’t totally figured out how to be consistent on Tour yet(too much partying?) but his talent is too big to deny.
VERDICT: On the team.

Zach Johnson:
People probably don’t realize how good Zach Johnson was in 2009. 2010 hasn’t been a great year for him, but a strong record in the past and a major to boot make Johnson a pretty obvious selection.
VERDICT: On the team.

Nick Watney:
I remember back in the day when Nick Watney was a promising young pro that almost no one had ever heard of and was one of the best values on tour. Two years later, Watney has firmly established himself as one of the best young American players.
VERDICT: On the team.

Ricky Barnes:
Ricky has spent the better part of a decade proving that he is not a very good golfer. All of a sudden he has one good year and he’s in the Ryder Cup mix? I don’t think so. I cannot emphasize how strongly he compares to some of the one hit wonders that showed up on the 2006 Ryder Cup team. It’s fine to acknowledge a good season(Barnes has definitely had one) but when it’s an outlier in a 10-year career AND the goal is projecting forward it’s worth ignoring Barnes.
VERDICT: Hell no.

Jeff Overton: Overton has put up a solid Steve Marino impression this season. Frequently Overton is contending for PGA Tournaments, and just frequently he is 3-putting them away. Sound familiar? Here’s my problem with Overton: THIS IS A CAREER YEAR. First, he’s been good but not great. Second, this is the first season he has played remotely close to this good. There are at least 15 other players with a season this good in 2010, and it’s not the fluke that Overton is. If Overton backs this up with 2 more years, I’ll consider him in 2012, but as of right now he’s no more attractive than Steve Marino who has played at Overton’s 2010 level for three straight years.
VERDICT: Maybe in 2012

Kenny Perry
: Perry has a down 2010 season and as he approaches 50 I think this might be significant. If he was significantly better than most other players(as in 2008) I wouldn’t be concerned, but with other comparable options who should get better, I think you leave Kenny off the squad. This is unfortunate because Kenny’s dad’s overalls were definitely more important to the team victory than anything Paul Azinger did, but I’m trying to find the best 12 Americans.

David Toms Toms ranks 55th on the American points list. Obviously, the genius of Paul Azinger has brainwashed everyone into thinking that Tom’s 2009 season where he posted 13 top 25s in 27 events is meaningless. That’s complete garbage because Toms has been one of the best American players for the past decade. Sure, he might be on the decline a little bit, but his 2010 is strong enough to merit consideration.
VERDICT: On the Bubble

Steve Marino: Marino is like a really good sophmore on the JV team just not quite good enough to make varsity yet. If there is a JV Ryder Cup, team, Marino is one of the stalwarts of it. All man-crushes aside, I don’t think he’s strong enough to crack into the top-12, although with his upside and potential in the future to play on many US international teams I could see the merit here.
VERDICT: On the Bubble

Ben Crane: Crane currently sits at 12th on the RC points list and has the added bonus of winning this year. However, since that probably means absolutely nothing it’s not that much of an “added bonus.” Crane has been a silently underrated player for awhile, but I’m not sure one win makes him better than Steve Marino overall.
VERDICT: On the bubble.

Lucas Glover: Glover is solidly on the team by points because he was lucky enough to play well in the easy side of the 2009 US Open draw. I doubt he would be on the team by 2010 points alone, but he’s arguably one of the best 12 Americans. This turns out to be classic Azinger, he’s right, but for the completely wrong reasons. VERDICT: On the bubble.

Rickie Fowler: Fowler is dancing the fine line between performance and potential. He’s got tons of potential and will probably be on the Ryder Cup team at some point. The huge problem, I have is that he isn’t close over the past two years to the Bubble. If it was a few fractions of a shot, I’d definitely put some merit to getting Rickie on the team. He’s just not close enough at the moment.
VERDICT: Not yet.

J.B. Holmes: Holmes has probably been Azingerized into our brains as a legitimate bubble pick. He’s probably a much better pick in 2010 than in 2008, when he was basically a random pro from Kentucky who hit it a mile. He has been pretty good in 2010, mostly because his statistically horrendous putting has turned around. Once again, when trying to project the top-12, though, I’d rather steer clear of someone who appears to be having one outlying season.
VERDICT: Outside looking in.

Bo Van Pelt: I know the media will take up the torch for the scorned Van Pelt when he doesn’t make the team as a captain’s pick so I’ll save the words. Although, you’ve never heard of him, BVP has been pretty good in 2010, Top-30 worldwide. Van Pelt has had a least two comparable seasons since 2004 and I think he has a pretty strong case for 14th best American. I’m not sure his body of work is strong enough to be on the team, though.
VERDICT: On the Bubble

Sean O’Hair As you get down to the final few spots, O’Hair has to be among the top contenders one of the last places on the team. He’s definitely been around the top-10 Americans for the past few years with a solid upside.
VERDICT: Bubble looking in.

Kevin Na Na is another promising American with a decent amount of potential. By 2 year rankings he looks like a good pick on the bubble, but 2009 was so far higher than anything he’s done previously(or in 2010) it’s hard to take that seriously. Na probably just misses the cut.
VERDICT: On the Bubble

1. Tiger Woods
2. Steve Stricker
3. Phil Mickelson
4. Jim Furyk
5. Anthony Kim
6. Nick Watney
7. Zach Johnson
8. Hunter Mahan
9. Sean O’Hair
10. Matt Kuchar
11. Dustin Johnson
12. Steve Marino
13. Lucas Glover
14. David Toms
15. Bo Van Pelt
16. Kevin Na
17. Kenny Perry
18. Ben Crane
19. Scott Verplank
20. Justin Leonard

I filled in 1-11(though you could argue the rankings) pretty easily. After that it get’s very hard and there is a lot of room for debate. The 12th came down to Glover, Marino, Toms, Bo Van Pelt and Na. Marino has had the strongest 2010 and I’d love to see him on the team, though I completely understand the case for Lucas Glover.

I also realize the points system is going to kill the United States, but I would rather rank the players truly from 1-20. I should also note that if any of the players on this list get hot for the next month that’s probably enough to tip the scales in their favor although it won’t mean much in performance. That’s how close the players are.

European prospectus coming next week, I hope.



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  1. N.

    I think you made a mistake on David Toms. I don’t think he’s good enough to be on the bubble. Why is “his 2010 is strong enough to merit consideration?” In 2010 David doesn’t look a top 20 US player, with 3 weak top 25s in his last 17 starts. I’d be interested in knowing his 2010 ranking.

    Sure, in 2009 Toms scored consistently well, but his last 12 months of mediocrity matter, and there are strong American players without it that should take his place. (I also would forget about Toms’ strong play 3+ years ago; that doesn’t represent Toms today.)

    • Jake

      Is it not unreasonable that what we’ve seen in Toms last 17 starts isn’t representative of his true-talent?

      Toms has shown he’s one of the 30 best in the world from 2008-2010 and he has a long legacy of being very, very good. He merits a long look, especially if experience matters at all (which it might to a tiny degree).

      • N.

        Here’s the deal on Toms:

        Great: 2009, 2007, 2006, etc.

        Mediocre: 2010, 2008

        Probable Ryder Cup performance: Mediocre/Good

        There are guys on the bubble with:

        Good: 2008-2010

        Probable Ryder Cup performance: Good

        I honestly don’t see the big difference between 2010 Toms and 2009 Adam Scott, who was a poor captain’s pick by Greg Norman last year. There is little evidence that Toms is a top golfer right now.

  2. Jake

    You’re using arbitrary end points where it’s not necessary to use them. Sure, Toms is -.218 in 2008, -.482 in 2009, and something like -.25 in 2010, but he’s in the high -.30s taken over the past two calendar years. Do you really think his talent level dipped in 2008 and 2010, or is it more likely he got a dose of randomness those years? I’d imagine there’s plenty of examples of guys with -.25/-.50/-.25 in the database who’s true talent is in the mid -.35s.

    I mean, he’s 43, so the narrative that he’s declining now fits, but we’re seeing a bunch of great players stay consistently great into their 40s (KP, Stricker, Vijay, etc.).

    As far as Scott, I’m of two minds, either it wasn’t a bad pick of a guy who had a bunch of amazing seasons followed by two mediocre/bad unlucky ones, or it was a bad pick that went against two genuinely mediocre/bad seasons. I’d lean towards the latter where something genuinely changed in Scott’s game to make him change from a top five in the world to ~75th or so. Toms has fallen from top five from 2004-2007 to 30th or so, not nearly as drastic a fall.

    I do agree with you that there’s enough guys clustered around those last few spots that it doesn’t particularly matter for Ryder Cup selection.

  3. Wow, intelligent, coherent commenters. Where did you guys come from?

    I tend to side with Jake on this one in that Toms(around -.25) for the year is having one below top-12 level season, but compared with a really pretty fantastic career throughout the decade. Off the top of my head, I’d say Toms is probably a top-5 American player if you averaged all the seasons from 2000-2008. My point is, given the choice of a player(who can be expected to be on decline somewhat for sure) with a long career of excellant play, at an age where many guys are still competitive, having a mediocre/poor year by his standards is an infinitely better option than a player(Overton, Barnes) with a mediocre/poor career and an excellent year.

    I’ve got a whole post planned out-lining the 2006 Ryder Cup and the potential comparison between Overton and Barnes with Vaughn Taylor, Brett Wetterich and J.J Henry scares me. Like I said, 1-11 is pretty clear. The last spot is open to a lot of debate. Not saying Toms, should be there right now, but he’s pretty close and with a good next month that might be enough to tip him into the American top-12.

  4. FWIW, Toms is the 37th best American this year, though to be fair it’s pretty close between 20 down.

    Interestingly, Corey Pavin is 13th.

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